Jesus heard that Lazarus was sick, and waited two days before going to see him. Two days was enough for death to set in. Why would Jesus wait if He had the power to heal Lazarus? We know from the Centurion that Jesus just needed to say a word, and Lazarus would have been healed.
Yet He waited, and then He traveled (in no apparent rush) until He gets to their house when Lazarus had been buried for four days. This is significant because pagan culture and belief at that time said that the soul left the body after three days!
Why would Jesus allow Lazarus to die? Why would He allow the family to suffer for four days? Jesus answers this in John 11:4,
“Lazarus’s sickness will not end in death. No, it is for the glory of God. I, the Son of God, will receive glory from this.”John 11:4, NLT
What happened was for God’s glory.
But this doesn’t mean that it didn’t grieve Jesus to see them mourning. Twice in the chapter we are told that Jesus was deeply moved, at one point being moved to tears.
Sin brings pain and death. There is no getting around it. And although God has the power to do all things, in His perfect wisdom He knows the best timing for everything, even though it sometimes causes pain until He steps in.
But there are two points that stand out to me from this.
- God will heal in His time. For some, it might come after this life. We are not God and do not see what He sees, so in this we need faith to trust in His timing and His will.
- It grieves God to see us suffer. It is not His choice for us to suffer. Sin brought suffering and death into the world, and until the time of the new heaven and new earth come, there will be suffering because of free will and the consequences of thousands of years of humanity. Yet it doesn’t mean that God doesn’t grieve for us and with us.
In my own life I have had to wrestle with this as I have watched my daughter struggle with chronic illness, but in the midst of it I have also seen her faith grow, and I have seen God use her to impact many others who need to see the hope she has.